Facing My Fear
For some people, going to the doctor seems like a simple procedure. I’m not one of those people
When I started working for this magazine three years ago, it had just published its annual Top Docs feature. Flipping through the issue, it struck me that I hadn’t been to a doctor since George Clooney was on E.R. It also occurred to me that with the new job came this really convenient thing called health insurance, so I decided to make an appointment with a general physician.
This was a huge step for me. After a negative experience with a doctor as a child, I’d boycotted the profession. The negative experience being one in which the doctor had insisted on pricking my finger to take a blood sample. I don’t do well with people trying to take my blood. I’m fairly possessive of it.
So when I decided to give this “annual checkup” thing a shot, my friends and family applauded my maturity. (They take advantage of every opportunity to do this—it doesn’t happen often.) In my mind the checkup would include a quick blood-pressure test, some tapping on my knees, and a few intrusive questions. I figured the worst part would be standing on a scale in a public place.
But apparently, doctors have really gotten into this blood-testing thing lately, because after a few questions, mine explained he’d be drawing a “small” amount of blood from my arm. I explained to him that I actually liked keeping all of my blood, and so this could become a complicated situation. He laughed and assured me I’d be fine. I assured him that absolutely wasn’t true. He told me I could lie down when the blood was being drawn. I said that would be convenient, as I fully anticipated dying.
By the time the nurse came into the room with her tubes and needles, my blood pressure was definitely higher than when they’d taken it moments before. I asked if anyone had ever had a heart attack while their blood was being drawn. She laughed. I made a mental note to find a doctor’s office where I’d be taken seriously. Then she stabbed me. (OK, she “inserted a needle in my arm,” but I think we all know what that means.) After what felt like thirty-six hours, she said, “That’s strange, there’s no more blood being released.”
I knew it. There was none left. She’d killed me. I thought of my family and wondered what they’d play at my funeral. I thought of my dog, and wondered who would buy her favorite rawhide. I thought of this magazine, and wondered if they’d ever recover from my absence. Then she pulled out the needle, slapped on a Band-Aid, patted my arm, handed me a tropical punch Capri Sun, and said she’d be back in a moment.
I stayed lying down, slurping my drink from the straw, excited to still be breathing, and listened as the nurse in the hall conferred with another nurse. “Do you think this is enough blood to test?” I heard her ask.
The other nurse responded, “Well, that’s about as much as we get from an infant, so it should be enough.”
I would have felt insulted at this infant comparison, but I felt so elated to be alive that I really didn’t care. I sat up with renewed vigor. Outside the window, birds were chirping and the sun was shining. (At least that’s how I remember it.) I’d survived! I grabbed my handbag, tenderly held my wounded arm, and went to check out. As the receptionist handed me my receipt, she smiled and told me she’d see me next year. This time, I laughed.